How digital project management should be done

The digital project management process is usually a straight-forward step by step one and by that I mean for every website build, banner campaign, social media application, the key steps never change to successfully deliver a project on time and budget.

For the past few years, I’ve been using a 5 step process to delivery digital projects successfully for the likes of Vertu, Under Armour, Mulberry and Clarins. Those steps at a top-level are:

  1. Discovery – Scoping, requirements gathering
  2. Planning – Sign-off, specifications, UX, creative
  3. Production – Creative, development
  4. Deployment – Testing, launch
  5. Maintenance – Support, improvements

Whether it’s an Agile, Waterfall or Prince II methodology that you’re following, a good project leader will be able to determine which approach will suit the project criteria. Flexibility and having a plan B & C to hand at every phase gives you greater control and shows great leadership qualities when scope creep, budget cuts and resource issues occur during the lifetime of the project.

These process steps do need to occur in this way in order for a successful launch, as you wouldn’t start the front-end development without the creative sign-off and you wouldn’t start the back-end development without a functional and/or technical specification sign-off. Going deeper, these steps can be broken down further:

  1. DISCOVERY
    • Ideas / requirements and rough estimation – Before the start of the project, there is the idea. The idea is then transformed into requirements and estimation in time and cost.
    • Kick-off meeting – Should take place with an initial project plan to discuss and receive approve by the other project members. Everybody in the team should know “what” and “when” is about to happen (key milestones) and also “who” is responsible for every specific task.
    • If the key stakeholder agrees with the cost and initial requirements, a statement of work (SOW) is signed.
    • Documentation during this phase will include: Brief, Creative Brief, SOW, Requirements Document, Asset List, Costing Proposal, Stakeholders & Project Team, Risk Assessment, Project Plan.
  2. PLANNING
    • Detailed requirements and specifications – Key stakeholders should go through the requirements and clarify any queries. This is important so specification documents are written clearly.
    • Creative – If the project requires a creative response then initial ideas and concepts should start to form here.
    • Wireframes / User Journeys / IA – Once there is an agreement over the mock-ups the designers could finish the actual design and wireframes are produced to support the concept.
    • Documentation during this phase includes (updated/new): Contract, Response to Brief, SOW, Requirements Document, Asset List, Costing Proposal, Stakeholders & Project Team, Risk Assessment, Project Plan, Development Plan, Functional Specification, Technical Specification, Wireframes, Designs.
  3. PRODUCTION
    • Beta development / back-end coding – The beta development could start even before the designs are completed. The back-end system is the backbone of a website. Any critical and major defects/bugs should be fixed during beta revisions/development.
    • Front-end coding – Once the designs are completed it needs to be built.
    • Final revisions and polishing – Involve key stakeholders to ensure they are satisfied with the results. Any smaller issues should be addressed during a feedback/approval stage.
    • Documentation during this phase includes (updated/new): SOW, Requirements Document, Asset List, Risk Assessment, Project Plan, Launch Plan.
  4. DEPLOYMENT
    • Going live and testing – When you manage large web projects it is important to allocate enough time and resources for the “going live” stage.
    • Documentation during this phase includes (updated/new): SOW, Change Request, Asset List, Risk Assessment, Project Plan, Testing Plan, Bug List, Feedback Form, Launch Plan.
  5. MAINTENANCE
    • Support – These should be on-going. It’s worth noting that any major new developments are better to be managed as separate projects and not just under support and maintenance. Retainer model should be set-up and reviewed regularly.
    • Documentation during this phase includes (updated/new): Launch plan, Feedback Form, Bug Sheet, Project Plan, Change Request, Launch Plan.

I hope this gives you an idea on my approach for delivering projects online, it’s worth noting that not everything will work to plan and good leadership is how you manage those issues before they become problems. The biggest challenge for any project is to make sure that time, cost, scope and quality always need to be equal, by that I mean, scope changes will always affect time and cost, time restrains will always affect quality so as long as you understand and manage those issues and have a plan B on hand, there should not be any surprises that can’t be managed.

Documentation is the biggest part of showing the process works, I’ve known many project managers to write excellent meeting minutes but then forget to update the SOW document when the scope has change during the discovery phase. I’m always learning as a Project Director, so let me know what else you could add to the overall process?

3 thoughts on “How digital project management should be done

  1. As part of my management, I like to have have a Review & Reflect at the completion of each project. Doing this allows me to review the process each and every time and make tweaks

  2. Pingback: What is Digital Project Management? | Osman Gani

  3. Which is fine if all you are considering is a technical implementation. However there may be wider business needs, impact assessments, content, brand, compliance issues and much more.. But perhaps we should consider this as being programme management over and above pure project management?

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